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MM Owner And Family Explore Tanzania

Baobab tree and ele­phants in the Tarangire Nation­al Park. Mark Gun­log­son photo

The four boys stand­ing on the side of the road were a sure indi­ca­tion that we had left the hus­tle and bus­tle of Arusha and that we were now well into Maa­sai coun­try. As part of the pas­sage into man­hood and becom­ing a Maa­sai war­rior, boys aged 12 – 16 under­go a cir­cum­ci­sion rit­u­al that includes their bod­ies being paint­ed black. As was the case with the boys on the side of the road, these boys then have about four-six months where they stay in their own hut and wan­der around togeth­er learn­ing how to use bow and arrow; mean­while, the fam­i­ly pre­pares for a big cel­e­bra­tion for the boys to become war­riors. Once through these rites of pas­sage the young war­riors can wear the tra­di­tion­al red of the Maa­sai men, have dread­locks, or paint their hair red. 

Look­ing out over the Tarangire. Mark Gun­log­son photo

As we con­tin­ue our dri­ve into the Great Rift Val­ley, thatched-roofed mud huts, known as bomas, dot the land­scape. Long­time Moun­tain Mad­ness guide and friend, Ben Mal­i­ty, point­ed out that the num­ber of huts indi­cat­ed how many wives the patri­arch of the fam­i­ly had, with each get­ting their own boma. Ben explains that the num­ber of wives one has is based on the num­ber of cows one possesses.

Ben dri­ving in the park. Mark Gun­log­son photo

The bomas’ back­yards are a bit big­ger here than what we are used to in the North­west and in places push up against the splen­did Nation­al Parks that we will be vis­it­ing dur­ing our trip here, begin­ning with Tarangire, which is known for a high con­cen­tra­tion of ele­phants. After dri­ving about 2.5 hours from Arusha we arrived and were met by a gang of bold vervet mon­keys, whose antics include snatch­ing any avail­able food off pic­nic tables and jump­ing into any open win­dows of safari vehi­cles, and thumb­ing through the pages of a book my daugh­ters’, Grace and Ellie, have sit­ting on a bench, which they assure me is a learn­ing moment for these curi­ous ances­tors of ours.

Vervet mon­keys… cute but tricky! Mark Gun­log­son photo

Like many places where Moun­tain Mad­ness oper­ates trips, there are cer­tain shifts in weath­er pat­terns. Here, the short rains” of Novem­ber have arrived lat­er but, because of the rain, the land­scape is as green as can be. Our dri­ve yes­ter­day around the Tarangire Riv­er pro­vid­ed us with sight­ings of impalas, lions, water bucks, dik diks, band­ed mon­goose, baboons, dwarf mon­goose, eland, steen­bok, sil­ver-backed jack­al, wart hog, squir­rel, zebras, ostrich­es, and prob­a­bly close to 200 ele­phants. The num­bers of birds seen are too many to men­tion, but among them two stand out unique to Africa, the Sec­re­tary Bird and the Ground Horn­bill, both hunters that sort of wad­dle their way through the open wood­lands in search of prey, some­times up to 12 miles in a day. Ben explains the tac­tics of the Sec­re­tary Bird, such as catch­ing a snake, then fly­ing high and drop­ping the snake mul­ti­ple times before eat­ing it. Like the com­plex web of life found in the Ama­zon Basin, all things have their place and adap­ta­tion here.

Ele­phants and the Tarangire Riv­er. Mark Gun­log­son photo

A lion king wak­ing up from a nap. Mark Gun­log­son photo

A pack of band­ed mon­goose. Mark Gun­log­son photo

Our day end­ed up at the Tarangire Safari Lodge where the girls cooled off in the pool and the adults excer­cised what I call our veran­da rights,” sip­ping on a sun­down­er and tak­ing in the views of Kilimanjaro’s cousin, the now snow-capped Mount Meru, and soak­ing in a land­scape cov­ered with aca­cias and baobab trees, all while ele­phants mean­dered through the grass­es hap­pi­ly for­ag­ing among the green­ness. Not a bad first day of safari at all.

Veran­da at the Tarangire Lodge. Mark Gun­log­son photo

The kids cool­ing off in the pool. Mark Gun­log­son photo

We soon trav­el to the Serengeti where we enjoy the Moun­tain Mad­ness pri­vate camp, which is sit­u­at­ed more than 10 miles away from the near­est lodge. Here, we have a day of tra­di­tion­al safari before head­ing out on a walk­ing safari, com­plete with a cou­ple of rifles to safe­guard our explo­ration of the area, a place only a few out­fit­ters are allowed in and no vehi­cles, oth­er than our sup­port jeep. More in a week or so!

~ MM Own­er Mark Gunlogson